Sunday April 3 my father’s memorial announcement was posted in the “Familienanzeige” section of the Tagesspiegel newspaper in Berlin. Actually there were two announcements, the one my family arranged, and another purchased by close Berlin friends of Dad’s. It was awfully touching of them to have added their own special “Traueranzeige” from friends to be placed next to the traditional family announcement.
These German friends of my fathers, who in most cases had known him since the 1960’s, knew my father as Ah-brah-hamm, the German pronunciation of Abraham, but most usually called him by the American shortening of Abraham, “Abe”.
So while the family announcement referenced Dad’s childhood Yiddish/Hebrew nickname of “Avi”, the friends’ announcement referenced “Abe”.
Well, not quite.
A closer look quickly revealed to me that my father’s German friends never discovered the correct spelling of Abe. And so in the announcement they call him “Ab”.
Which is unfortunate, since in neither English nor German would one look at “Ab” and pronounce it “Abe”.
Had my father become a stomach muscle?
Germans don’t use “silent e”. To write out “Abe” in a way that would make a German pronounce the name correctly, you would have to spell it “Eyb”. That would have looked very odd in the announcement.
“Ab” in German is pronounced “op” or “app”, to spell it out for an English reader.
Black Ops. Special Funeral Forces. The Funeral App. For smart phone internment.
Yet my first thoughts upon seeing this were not how this would look to an American, but how it comes across in German.
Because, you see, “ab” in German means “off”. And is used commonly as a preposition.
As in “abgehoben”. Which was the first word that entered my mind when I saw my father referred to as “Ab”.
Ab – gehoben. Literally lifted off, floating off. But generally used colloquially as far out, as in wild and crazy.
And then the next inappropriate examples tumbled into thought:
Abgegangen – walked off
Abgenommen – took off (as in removed, or as in losing weight)
Abgelaufen – also walked off, but also meaning run out, as in time having run out.
Abgefahren – driven off, and yet again far out and wild and crazy in slang.
Shouldn’t come as a surprise, I suppose, that it was always the past tense form of these words that came to mind.
Abgerufen – called off
Abgefallen – fell off
Abgebrochen – broken off
Abgeschaffen – gotten rid of
“Ab” is an extremely popular preposition. My German dictionary has 14 pages of words beginning with “ab”.
Abgegriffen – well worn
Abseits – off sides
Abgrund – Abyss
And there are a few truly unpleasant “ab” words too, which I didn’t enjoy being reminded of:
Abschaum – scum
Abwürgen – cut off, strangle
Abkratzen – scratch off; common ugly slang for dying.
Absatz – pause; indentation; paragraph.
Abschnitt – cut off piece; (a new) era.